Looking to fast-track those gains in 2024? While it takes consistency and patience to make meaningful progress in the gym, these 5 gym hacks can deliver an instant boost in strength to improve your performance.
Whether you want to add more muscle or get stronger, use these 5 hacks to make those #gainz:
1. Keep your skin warm
Keep that sweater on during your warm-up and the workout if the gym is cold to lift heavier loads during your session.
According to research published in the European Journal of Applied Physiology, “lowered skin temperature can impair isokinetic force production independent of core temperature”.
During the study, the researchers found that skin cooling, even with a warm core of 39.5°C, immediately decreased peak torque.
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2. Skip the static stretching
While every workout needs a warm-up, ditch the static stretching. Research published in the International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy suggests it negatively influences muscle strength and power output during the subsequent training session.
A comprehensive warm-up that includes some light cardiovascular activity and movement-specific dynamic stretches and mobility drills offers the best approach to boost blood flow to your muscles, raise body temperature, and activate the neuromuscular system, which has a direct effect on your strength.
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3. Flex your mind muscle
Your mind is a powerful tool that can boost strength when you use it properly. Visualisation and mental imagery are powerful yet often underutilised tools by most lifters in the gym.
In a study conducted at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation, simply visualising a lifting session was enough to increase strength.
Researchers compared the strength of participants who trained in the gym against those who worked out in the minds with a virtual workout.
The gym-goers experienced a 30% increase in strength, while those who flexed their mind muscle increased bicep strength by 13.4% and maintained those gains for three months following the mental training.
4. Connect to the floor
Modern cushioned training shoes place a thick slab of artificial material between the ground and your feet – two of the most complex sensory structures in your body, each with 200,000 sensory receptors (located in muscle, tendons and connective tissue).
By breaking the natural feedback loop, these receptors send less sensory feedback from our feet to our brain via our nervous system, which reduces movement efficiency, coordination and proprioception. This negatively impacts movement efficiency and can result in a number of issues.
Minimalist footwear enhances proprioception – the awareness of our limbs in space and our movement patterns. This helps to improve our stability, control our movements, and improves our balance, coordination and our posture for better joint alignment.
These are all important elements for efficient and powerful movement because it enables us to generate more force through our planted feet and helps maintain the correct, natural position of our body during complex compound movements.
5. Grip it and rip it
Much like your feet, your hands are also important for proprioception. All the mechanoreceptors in our hands help to guide and control the movement of our arms and proximal muscles, and they also engage the nervous system.
Grip strength is also a rate-limiting factor on any lift that requires holding the bar. Accordingly, developing your grip strength, learning different grip techniques for heavier lifts and using lifting aids like gloves or wraps when necessary can help you lift more.
Author: Pedro van Gaalen
When he’s not writing about sport or health and fitness, Pedro is probably out training for his next marathon or ultra-marathon. He’s worked as a fitness professional and as a marketing and comms expert. He now combines his passions in his role as managing editor at Fitness magazine.